J-1 Host Faculty Guide

Thank you for hosting a J-1 Exchange Visitor!

Cornell University has been designated by the US Department of State as a Exchange Visitor Program sponsor since February 6, 1950. The ISSO is responsible for compliance with federal program regulations and applies for recertification biannually. The J-1 Exchange Visitor visa is the most common visa category for academic staff at Cornell. We are currently authorized to host J-1 professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, and students. This guide is designed to provide you with the most significant information you need to know in order for your J-1 Exchange Visitor to have a safe and productive program of exchange, and to assist the ISSO in maintaining our compliance requirements.

Our web site (www.isso.cornell.edu) has a wealth of information about J-1 Exchange Visitors. We encourage you to familiarize yourself with the information contained on these pages; knowing what information we offer may help you direct them to the right resource. We are also always available and happy to advise you or your visitors in person. 

J-1 Visitors' Arrival and Immigration Check-In

Your department's human resources representative will provide the J-1 visitor with information about their workspace, e-mail account, Cornell ID Card, computer, and other university and departmental hiring procedures. Your human resources representative will also arrange an appointment with the University Onboarding Center, if one is required.

J-1 visitors are also required to complete an immigration check-in/orientation with the ISSO. Federal regulations require that the ISSO notify the federal government that the Exchange Visitor has arrived. If this does not occur in a timely way, their legal status in the US may be compromised. If your visitor is delayed in his or her arrival, please be sure to notify the ISSO. We have issued your Exchange Visitor a DS-2019 Form with a specific Program Start date. Regulations require that the Exchange Visitor arrive, report to Cornell University and complete the required check-in process within 30 days of that Program Start date. If that does not occur, the J-1 Exchange Visitor’s status in the federal database (SEVIS) auto-terminates.You can help us by making sure that your Exchange Visitor has completed the J-1 check-in process with ISSO.

We hope that as faculty host, you will do whatever you can to make the J-1 visitor feel welcome and oriented to the community, to campus and your department.

Ithaca Housing

Cornell Exchange Visitors often find their own housing through on-line platforms (e.g. Airbnb or Craigslist) before they arrive. In addition to these sources, Cornell’s Off-Campus Living website provides:

  • A searchable database of available housing in the Ithaca area
  • Budget and lease/rental agreement information
  • Tips on handling problems with a landlord
  • A rental property inventory and condition checklist and much more.

English Language Requirement

J-1 regulations require proof of sufficient English language knowledge before an Exchange Visitor is selected to participate in a J-1 program. More information on the requirement and on the method for certifying English proficiency can be found here. If you are a non-native English speaker and are hiring someone who speaks your language, please understand that the US Department of State regulations require that the English language competency of our Exchange Visitors allow them to comfortably navigate grocery stores, transportation, doctor and hospital visits. If your visitor arrives and is not able to function outside your lab or facility, he or she may not be able to continue participation in the Exchange Program. While there are several opportunities for English language study in Ithaca, understand that J-1 Exchange Visitors are expected to have strong English language skills before they are offered a position at Cornell University.

Health & Accident Insurance Requirement

Government regulations mandate that all exchange visitors (J-1 visa holders) and their dependents (J-2) have health and accident insurance in order to participate in Cornell’s Exchange Visitor Program. For more information on the insurance requirement, please see Health Insurance Requirements for J-1 Exchange Visitors, and the relevant section of the regulation (22 CFR 62.14).

Critical Incident & Positive News Reporting

The Department of State requires that the ISSO notify them of any critical incident which may impact the reputation of the Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program. In order to be compliant with this requirement, please notify ISSO (isso@cornell.edu) in the event of an Exchange Visitor death, serious injury, arrest, conviction, or any other incident which could be considered a “critical incident”. The ISSO is legally required to submit a report of the incident to the Department of State.

The Department of State is also interested in promoting the value of the Exchange Visitor Program. If you have any images or stories that we could share with the Department of State as an example of the value or positive contribution of an Exchange Visitor to Cornell University’s program, ISSO may include these images and stories in our Department of State Annual Report.

Employment Limitations

J-1 Exchange Visitors may work at Cornell in the position described on the DS-2019 Form. They are not permitted to receive compensation from another employer or for a different Cornell job. Occasional off-campus lecturing or consulting (as measured by days, rather than weeks, months, or semesters) may be allowed if it contributes to their original purpose in coming to Cornell University, but an authorization letter must be obtained from the ISSO before such work can be undertaken. Substantial off-campus employment is not allowed.

Sometimes exciting consulting, entrepreneurial, or other employment opportunities arise that you might wish to recommend to J-1 Exchange Visitors. Please remember that their ability to accept compensation for service is limited to pre-approved (by ISSO) occasional lectures or consultations. Accepting compensation for a service without appropriate work authorization is a very serious violation of legal status in the US. Please help us keep our Exchange Visitors safe by sharing this message, where appropriate, and by pointing them to the following procedure for requesting ISSO approval for an "occasional lecturing or consulting opportunity”.

The J-1 visitor will need to provide the ISSO with:

  1. A copy of the invitation letter that includes location, date, title of event or lecture  or consultation
  2. A statement from the J-1 visitor’s supervisor or department chair – indicating that they support the activity and that it is in accordance with the overall purpose of the J-1 scholar’s visit.

Employment and School of Dependents

J-2 visa holders (spouses and children under 21) may request employment authorization from US Citizenship and Immigration Services after entering the US. This authorization is not guaranteed. If approved, the J-2 be sent a work permit from the Department of Homeland Security.

Public education is free of charge for children enrolled in Kindergarten through Grade 12. The school year starts in early September and ends in late June. Children must be five, or turn five no later than December 1, to be able to enroll at the start of the school year. Visit the ICSD website for information about enrolling children in an Ithaca public school. If your J-1 visitor will live outside of the Ithaca City School District, you can find contact information for other area schools here.

Public Transportation
Ithaca employees with a Staff or Faculty Cornell University ID card may ride TCAT buses (Cornell Campus and Ithaca area only), Monday-Friday for free. For schedules, please go to the TCAT website. Further information regarding transportation is available at the Cornell Transportation website.

Driver's License
New York State honors all valid foreign drivers' licenses, as long as they have a certified English translation. J-1 Scholars whose documents list a program period for one year or more (and valid six months or more into the future) may apply for a New York State driver's license. For more information, please visit the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles website. New York State ID cards for non-drivers may also be obtained from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Federal and State Income Taxes & Social Security Number

If your J-1 visitor received any payment while in the US, taxes will likely be due. Certain people may benefit from a tax treaty (check the Internal revenue Service (IRS) for a list of countries which have tax treaties with the US). Encourage your J-1 visitor to determine their tax status by contacting the appropriate Payroll Office as soon as possible after their arrival. In general, foreign nationals earning any money in the US must file a tax return, even if their earnings are below the minimum established annually by the IRS or if they are beneficiaries of a tax treaty.

In order to file taxes, your J-1 visitor will need to have a Social Security Number (SSN) or a Taxpayer ID (ITIN). J-1 Visitors sponsored by Cornell University are eligible to apply for US Social Security numbers. The ISSO can assist them with this process. Please note that the Social Security Administration wants J-1 Visitors to be in the US for at least 10 days before making an application for the SSN.

For more information about taxes and the SSN or ITIN.

ISSO Programs

In addition to providing immigration assistance, the ISSO organizes a series of fun activities, trips, and informational workshops. J-2 spouses and family members are encouraged to participate in all ISSO programs and trips.